Category Archives: Team Members Publications

Rurban India: The new consumer frontier

One consequence of the urbanization defined by the spurt in census towns has been changes in buying preferences

In a recent study, analytics company Nielsen charted the rise of the small-town consumer in India: “In a land of over 8,000 towns and 600,000 villages, where is demand the strongest?” the report asked. It found that value growth for packaged consumer goods was led by the smallest of small town consumers. “While middle India (100,000-1 million towns) leads the pack in same-store sales for the last three-year period, smaller towns with a population of 1 lakh and below have surged far ahead of the rest in 2011,” the report said. (…).

As a result, Bihar’s urbanization goes largely uncaptured by the census data, said Eric Denis, head of the social sciences department at the French Institute of Pondicherry, who worked on the e-Geopolis project (of which the Indian constituent, Indiapolis, attempts to map all settlements of over 10,000 people in the country using satellite imagery and census data). On Denis’s map, Bihar looks densely agglomerated, but, as the report notes, only 15% of the settlements shown on the map are officially designated as towns.

Cordelia Jenkins, Anupama Chandrashekharan and Anuja for live mint – 04 Oct. 2012

Full article here

A tale of many cities

The share of the urban population is less than a third of India’s population. But there are social scientists who seriously believe that the extent of urbanisation is much higher if conventional and new data sources are analysed “against the grain”. On the other hand, India is also considered to be “an extremely reluctant urbaniser”, according to the CEO and MD of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation. (…).

More importantly, while some census towns are, no doubt, concentrated around the big metropolises, more than four-fifths of these are situated outside the proximity of such cities. The process of spontaneous transformation of such settlements, thus, is widespread. “Subaltern urbanisation should result in vital smaller settlements outside the metropolitan shadow, indicating a pattern of urbanisation that is extensive, widespread, economically vital and autonomous,” states Mukhopadhyay in a joint paper with Eric Denis and Marie-Helene Zerah recently published in the Economic and Political Weekly.

By N Chandra Mohan: A tale of many cities for Business Standard 4th Oct. 2012

See the link

La mesure de l’urbanisation au prisme de la question des petites villes

Une illustration de la méconnaissance de la diversité du monde urbain à travers l’exemple de l’Inde.

Rémi de Bercegol


Paris, 1er au 3 février 2012

A travers l’exemple de l’Inde, on propose une réflexion sur la difficulté à pouvoir appréhender le processus d’urbanisation : comment ce dernier est-il mesuré ? Que traduisent les chiffres officiels à propos de la réalité de ce processus ? Ne sont-ils pas aussi les produits d’une représentation imparfaite de la diversité du monde urbain ? Alors, quelles en sont les conséquences sur la planification urbaine et la gestion de la ville? Finalement, comment sciences et politiques se conjuguent dans la mesure et la production de la ville ?

Link to the paper

Unacknowledged Urbanisation: The New Census Towns of India

This is a CPR working paper written by Kanhu Charan Pradhan that you can download here.

Abstract: The unexpected increase in the number of census towns (CTs) in the last census has thrust them into the spotlight. Using a hitherto unexploited dataset, it is found that many of the new CTs satisfied the requisite criteria in 2001 itself; mitigating concerns of inflated urbanisation. The new CTs account for almost 30% of the urban growth in last decade, with large inter-state variations. They are responsible for almost the entire growth in urbanisation in Kerala and almost none in Chhattisgarh. Consequently, the estimated contribution of migration is similar to that in previous intercensal periods. Further, while some new CTs are concentrated around million-plus cities, more than four-fifths are situated outside the proximity of such cities, with a large majority not even near Class I towns,  though they form part of local agglomerations. This indicates a dispersed pattern of in-situ urbanisation. A growing share of urban population in these CTs is thus being governed under the rural administrative framework, despite very different demographic and economic characteristics, which may affect their future growth.

Urban mobilities and the cycle rickshaw

This is a paper written by Gopa Samanta for Seminar (August 2012) on the mobility within small and medium towns and the role of cycle rickshaw:

“It is difficult to imagine Indian streets without rickshaws. Three major types of rickshaws – hand-pulled, cycle and auto – remain an indispensable form of mobility in Indian cities. Yet, planners and policy makers continue to see rickshaws as a nuisance on city streets, seeking to either control their number or ban them altogether. Commonly, in the process of city planning, two major arguments are often advanced”.

The full article here

P. Sainath’s Articles in The Hindu -25 and 26 September 2011- on the 2011 Provisional Census Results: A Critical Comment

This is a Suburbin working paper written by Julien Bordagi from French Institute of Pondicherry. It is a critical comment of some of the conclusions from Sainath Hindu articles. It shows the significant role of the small towns in the urban growth during the last decade and the growth decline of the main metropolitan areas .

Download here.

Small towns, urban studies and India: literature review

These two working papers, have been written by Rémi de Bercegol.

The first one, highlights how the studies of small towns can help to the global understanding of urban area. The second focuses on the Indian literature and raises the question of the adequacy of urban policies in the case of small towns. See the link below (French Version only).

Small town and urban studies

Small Indian towns in the shadow of the greatest one

Estimates of Workers Commuting from Rural to Urban and Urban to Rural India: A Note

This is a IGIDR Working Paper written by S Chandrasekhar that you can download here.


This paper provides estimates of workers residing in rural (urban) India and commuting to urban (rural) areas for work. The estimates are based on National Sample Survey Organisation’s survey of Employment and Unemployment (2009-10). In 2009-10, a total number of 8.05 million workers not engaged in agriculture commuted from rural to urban areas for work while 4.37 million workers not engaged in agriculture commuted from urban to rural areas for work. It argues that the size of the rural and urban labour force should be adjusted to account for the workers who commute to a location different from their usual place of residence.

Decadal journeys: debt and despair spur urban growth

A Paper by P. Sainath from the Hindu, September 26, 2011. Some arguments, following his paper from the 25 September, which could explain the fact that urban population rise exceeds the rural rise: farming collapses and increase of footloose migration. These arguments are in contradiction with the main idea of Suburbin and don’t take into account the slow-down of the  metropolitan areas growth compared to the proliferation of small towns. See the link

Toward a Better Appraisal of urbanization in India

This paper  from Eric Denis and Kamala Marius-Gnanou, has been published on Cybergeo: European Journal of Geography in 2011. Last version is available online or you can download here a previous version.


Up to now, studies of urbanization in India have been based only on official urban figures as provided by the Census Surveys. This approach has inevitably introduced several avoidable biases into the picture, distortions further compounded by numerous regional inter-Census adjustments.
A much sounder option is now available in the Geopolis approach [], which follows the United Nations system of classifying as urban all physical agglomerates, no matter where, with at least 10,000 inhabitants.
Looked at from this standpoint, the Indian scenario exhibits all signs that, far from a major
demographic polarization led by mega-cities (as is commonly believed), what the country has been experiencing is a much-diffused process of urbanization. While 3,279 units were officiallycategorized as urban, the Geopolis criterion has identified 6,467 units—about twice as many—with at least 10,000 inhabitants. Again, in the matter of the rate of urbanization, the Geopolisyardstick places the figure at 37% for 2001, 10 points of percentage above the official estimate. In absolute terms, that difference accounts for 100 million inhabitants.
Apart from this fact, brought to light by both physical identification and gradation of the census units of all localities, and a study of the morphological profiles of individual agglomerates, a major finding relates to the greater spread of the country’s metro and secondary cities than had been believed up to now.
Yet another revelation thrown up by this study is that statistical and political considerations have obscured the emergence of small agglomerations of between 10,000 and 20,000 inhabitants. This omission can only be seen as a gap in the national policy on planning and urban development.
In other words, the country seems to be firmly headed toward an extended process of metropolitanization alongside diffused combinations of localized socio-economic opportunities, clusters, cottage industries, and market towns partially interlinked by developmental corridors.
It appears that, on the very wide and diverse Indian subcontinent, there have come into existence many sub-regional settings, which converge, overlap, and diverge, far indeed from adual model of modern versus traditional, urban versus rural, metro city versus small town.
This study of the distribution of today’s agglomerations and those emerging challenges the pertinence of the urban/rural divide as perceived through official eyes.